The day's theme: transformations. The overarching messages were of individuals pursuing their deepest sources of fear, wonder and curiosity, actively building better ways to move forward in their respective fields. My top three picks below:
While Frumkin’s talk was neither the flashiest nor the most shocking - it highlighted a potent shift: re-framing public spaces in terms of public health.
He underscored the critical importance of density, mixed use, visible/accessible green space, and infrastructure to support physical activity and human connections, on both quality and duration of human life. In an interview earlier this summer, Frumkin said "Before we prescribe a medicine, it has to be proved safe and efficacious - but if we prescribe a place design, no evidence is required," says Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington's School of Public Health. The result, he says, is "a slow-moving catastrophe."
The themes were consistent with current urban design trends and resonant of Ron Sims’ work locally and nationally to build infrastructure specifically to influence health outcomes and reduce related expenses. More and more research cites the social, physical and financial benefits of walkable urban environments. Frumkin closed with a question, urging each audience member to evaluate the spaces where they spend time, “is your environment healthy?”
He joked, asking, the audience to consider the length of time we each spend in rush hour “it’s kind of quaint isn’t it, that name.. it almost sounds like it just lasts for an hour, doesn’t it!?”
TED is launching an online learning platform with wonderfully viral potential. "TED-Ed's mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world."
Still in beta, the tool came online earlier this year and allows users to nominate their favorite educators. TED works with the educators to produce short lessons illustrated with custom animations, as well as interaction through quizzes, open-answer questions, and links to deeper related content. The formally produced lessons are available free online, here - arranged by subject or theme. Best of all, any online lesson can be 'flipped' - customized and re-posted, for use by any teacher, or student, anywhere in the world. Even better, the platform allows anyone to create lessons based on any you-tube content, to use, share and refine as custom lessons.
Brad Feld’s blog earlier this month focused on similar opportunities. Feld is working with teams from MIT and the Boston Startup School to question and re-design content, structure and delivery channels for education. Feld’s blog showcased Sir Ken Robinson, whose work you may have seen through prior TED talks and his prodigious research endeavors. If you have not, go ahead and take 11 minutes to watch below - we'll be here when you get back. Robinson raises several excellent ideas about what education may look like if we design to the needs of students, rather than to existing academic architecture. TED Ed may be a compelling tool to allow movement in this direction.
1) Roger Ressmeyer – Visions for Tomorrow
Photographer and filmmaker Roger Ressmeyer believes the answers to the six most crucial problems in the world have already been found. They just aren’t visible in an accessible way, and haven’t been promoted properly. So he’s making documentary to bring them to light, called Visions for Tomorrow.
Ressmeyer touched on climate change, energy, and inequality among the six issues, and highlights a seventh, potentially more fundamental than all the others: fear. Media, he said, has insidiously worked disproportionate doses of fear into our perceptions, thoughts and even actions. Many of the day’s TEDx speakers addressed fear – collectively noting that excessive focus on fear is the quickest killer of motivation to work, to explore. The antidote, Ressmeyer suggested: hope.
He began his talk with this statement:
“I have a mission,
It is one
that all of you can relate to.
It is to save the planet, for all of humanity”
By replacing images of violence and consumption with images of the next great scientific and spiritual achievements, Ressmeyer aims to channel attention towards solutions. “Thoughts Become Things!” he stressed.
This all sounded insanely idealistic, but made complete sense. Especially in the context of TEDx, one of several independent TEDx events that day and thousands that have already been hosted this year all over the world, all dedicated to ideas worth spreading.